Friday, January 25, 2013

Let It Snow…Inside!

This week we made indoor snow following these guidelines from Modern Parents Messy Kids.  The recipe just said two boxes of cornstarch and 1 can of shaving cream.  The sizes were not specified.  After a little trial & error, we did end up with some snow.  I wanted to pass some tips along to you so you can make your own snow!

I used:
2 – 16 oz. boxes of corn starch
1+ – 10 oz. cans of Barbasol Original shaving cream.

Here’s what we discovered…

  • it’s really hard to mix the shaving cream into so much corn starch.  I started with all of the corn starch in my bowl, and added the shaving cream a little at a time.  Even after I thought it was mixed well, and divided it between the kids, I still had to add more shaving cream to each of their piles.
  • It would be best to mix the shaving cream into 1 box of corn starch at a time.  It will probably take closer to 3/4 can of shaving cream.  Maybe I bought the jumbo boxes of cornstarch?
  • Mix it with your hands, or the handle of a wooden spoon.  Using the spoon end just didn’t work well at all.
  • We added a bit more than 1 can of shaving cream in order to get our snow to clump and stick together.  Probably about 1.5 cans, but it’s hard to measure.  We still didn’t get the balls for our snowmen to hold together very well, so you could probably add up to 1 can of shaving cream per 1 box of corn starch.
  • It makes a lot!  I was concerned that I would need a double batch in order to let both of my kids play at the same time.  One batch was plenty to split between two 9x13 casserole dishes!
  • Prepare to clean your floor and put a smock on your kids.  It’s not a big mess, but it is “dusty”, and it will get out of the dish.  I used a plastic table cloth over my table to make cleanup easier.

Indoor Snow

I threw together a plate of sensory objects for each of kids.  I used plastic animals & barns from our Snorta! game; milk jug lids; ribbon; seashells; moving eyes; buttons; paintbrushes; popsicle sticks; glass decorator rocks/beads; small plastic toys; tin juice lids; spoons; dry pasta; and toilet paper rolls.  I wanted them to be able to “decorate” a snow man but also just play in the snow.  The objects that were not specific to other toys or games went into a Ziploc for future snow play.

Indoor Snow

Mixing the snow took longer than I anticipated.  My kids didn’t help with this step, but got a little bored waiting. 

Indoor Snow

Elaine wanted a snowman but we had trouble getting the balls to hold together well enough for her to decorate.  She then enjoyed burying and playing with her other toys, and also made “flat” snowmen after patting the snow smooth.

Indoor Snow

Nolan turned out to be a sissy about having his hands dirty.  He was that way with paint too.  So…I spent a lot of time wiping his hands before he got very involved with his snow.  I also caught him trying to eat it several times.  He may have been a little too young…

Indoor Snow

Elaine’s snowman.  We played for about an hour before my kids decided that they were hungry.  We had fun, and we reserved the snow in Ziploc bags for further use on another day!

**UPDATE 2/14/13 – Today I was organizing the busy bags and discovered that our snow was full of mold.  So it does not last indefinitely!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Winter Blues

It’s been cold here.  Really cold.  Usually we bundle up and persevere in our walks and outings – through rain, cold, or whatever.  But not the last two weeks.  It’s been in the 20s and windy.  And since it takes a lot of effort for me to get out these days anyways…and since our new house is a little farther from any of our stops…we’ve been stuck. Inside.  Going crazy.

I’ve been trying to do activities with the kids to break up the monotony of princess dress-ups and train tracks.  I printed off a snow man tot pack and we’ve been doing crafts and such around the winter/snowman theme.  Here’s a peek into our efforts to bust the winter blues.

:: Snow Man Tot Pack – I downloaded two different ones (3Dinosaurs and Royal Baloo).  Elaine is doing pre-writing practice and cutting practice, as well as matching games, coloring sheets, and puzzles.

:: Baking – We made a new kind of cookie with ingredients we had on hand – Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip.  Then, of course, we tested them while they were warm, accompanied by mugs o’ milk.

Homemade Cookie Dunk
Nolan just dunks his cookie until it no longer holds together.  Then he eats a non-dunked cookie.  We need to work on his technique!

Homemade Cookie Dunk

:: Fruity Play Dough – I’ve shared this recipe with you before.  It makes the best play dough!  I don’t keep mine in the fridge, though.

:: Extended Bath Time – the have-a-tea-party-and-wear-shaving-cream-beards-until-the-water-is-cold kind of bath.  My kids love bath time.  Lately it has been rushed because we’ve had some late nights.  So one day I delayed it until the next morning and let them play until they were prunes.


Shaving Cream in the Bath

Shaving Cream in the Bath

:: Indoor Snowmen – If it’s going to be 20 degrees, then there needs to be snow with it!  In keeping with our Snowman theme, I found a recipe on Pinterest for making snow.  The best part is that it’s reusable.  My kids had a blast.  It was by far some of the best $5 I’ve spent yet.  I’ll share more on it tomorrow, because I have a couple of tips to make it easier {in case you want to make your own}.

Indoor Snow

:: Painting – Elaine is really into paint right now.  A couple of weeks ago we invested in water colors and washable paint.  I just printed some coloring sheets online and let her go at it.  Today we are planning to make puffy paint for our snowmen.

Painting Pictures   Painting Pictures
I thought Elaine did well on her rainbow with minimal help!

Painting Pictures

:: Glitter Art – One of my friends is a kindergarten teacher and has posted some great pictures of her classroom activities.  I stole one and let the kids make snowmen.  I covered the whole snowman in glue, then let them add glitter and craft odds ‘n’ ends until they were happy.  They still run to the fridge and pull it off to show anyone who comes to our house {whether in person or virtually}.

Snowman Craft Projects
Nolan’s pictures.  He enjoyed the glitter, not so much on the coloring!  We ended this craft with a trip to the ER!  While I was helping Elaine in the bathroom, Nolan got into my Zantac and got it open.  We don’t know for sure how many he swallowed, but I pulled 5 or so out of his mouth…almost dissolved.  Poison Control directed us to the ER, where he received a charcoal treatment and four hours of observation. He is fine and never got sick.

Snowman Craft Projects

:: Movie Date – We all sat down and watched an afternoon movie, complete with popcorn.  The kids loved it.  We also had a movie night with Daddy recently to watch our new Toy Story movie {thanks, Uncle Wes!}

Watching Movies

Watching Movies
Elaine “showing” you her popcorn without taking her eyes off the screen.  This is Nolan’s new “cheese” smile!

:: Play Date – We did venture out for an indoor playdate with some friends.  Ben’s current work project has him needing the car to run for materials “frequently” so we haven’t had transportation, but we are hoping for another play date next week!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Saving Money…the coupon free version

I have tried several times to continue my coupon clipping addiction after moving to New York City.  I was trying to fit my suburban training & experience into my new urban lifestyle.  What I discovered is that most of the time, my time and convenience are more important than saving a few cents with a coupon.  We do not have the stores that double coupons here and run amazing sales flyers like I had in Virginia Beach.  I do shop the sale flyer and stock up on items I use regularly, but I do not spend a lot of time clipping coupons.

This has meant that I have had to find other creative ways to pinch my pennies.  There are a few items which I use that are cheapest in bulk.  We had a Costco membership, but opted not to spend the money to renew.  I have a friend who picks up those few items for me when she is going anyway.  {This may change when I have three kids in diapers…I may have to renew}. 

Here are a couple of little things I do to stretch our money just a smidge:

  • Menu Plan – I fell off this bandwagon for a while too, and found myself running to the store more often and spending too much money.  I plan my menu for either two weeks or a month at a time, depending on what’s going on in life.  I factor in meals that I know we cannot eat in one supper, so that I can plan leftovers into my menu.  We regularly have soup & sandwiches because they are easy & inexpensive.  We also eat beans & rice {like a “naked” burrito} once a week.
  • Less Meat – while we all like to eat meat, I have found that in soups & casseroles you can easily cut the meat portion in half, and the family will never notice.  For a casserole to feed all four of us with leftovers, I use only 2 chicken breasts {sometimes less}.  Only occasionally do we have a “meat & potatoes” type of meal where the meat is the main course.
  • Samples – I do take the 30 seconds required to sign up for all the free toiletry samples I encounter online.  Money Saving Mom regularly shares links for these free items on her blog & Facebook page.  I can make a shampoo/conditioner sample pack last for about 4 days.  I usually sign up for 2-3 of these samples a month, so I get at least a week of “free” shampoo.  The body wash samples usually last much longer because they come in a small bottle.  And it is not rare to get a free razor or coupon for a free item at the drug store.  It all adds up!
  • Cleaning Supplies – I make my own cleaning products & laundry soap from inexpensive items like vinegar, borax, and baking soda.  See my post here for more information.  I try to use rags as much as possible instead of paper towels.  I also make my own foaming handsoap with a squirt of dishsoap and a lot of water – more details here {but I just use Dawn Hand Renewal instead of Dr. Bronners}.
  • Library – we go to the library often to check out books instead of shopping at Barnes & Noble.  Now that I have a Kindle I have also been utilizing both eReader Girl and Spirit Filled Kindle to download free books. 
  • Take My Own Portraits – Elaine is the only one who has really had professional portraits done.  I watched the photographer a couple of times, read a lot of blogs, and played with the manual settings on my camera.  The results are good enough for me.  I still have a lot to learn, and maybe one day I will own a DSLR, but for now I’m saving quite a lot by taking my own portraits of my kids.  I may take the twins to get their newborn pictures done at JC Penney because I know things will be hectic at that season.
  • Hulu – we don’t subscribe to Netflix or spend regular money on entertainment.  If we feel like watching something, we pick something clean from what Hulu offers for free.  On the rare occasion that there is a new release worth watching, we use a free code for the RedBox machine.
  • Free Printables – I have saved lots of money by downloading and printing things others have created.  Preschool materials for Elaine, planner pages, subway art for home d├ęcor, menu planning pages, and other items are often free online.  It saves me time and money.
  • Amazon – when I need to make a purchase, I usually check Amazon to see if it is cheaper.  Many times it is the same price or less as Target or another store.  If I spend $25 I get free shipping, and I have saved myself the time, gas, parking money, and effort to go and pick it up at the store.
  • Make It Myself – things like cookies, croutons, bread, cream-of-whatever-soup, hot chocolate mix, “bisquick”, and other items are easy to make at home from scratch, and they save a lot of money.
  • Upcycled Cards – I like to make my own stationery cards, but sometimes I don’t have much time.  When I receive cards in the mail, I often cut off the front and save it to “upcycle.”  When I need a card in a hurry I just remount the card onto a new piece of cardstock and I’m good to go!  Can’t remember the last time I bought a card in the store…

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Little Monkeys

My Uncle Scott gave my kids some costumes for Christmas.  Elaine’s turned out to be a little small {it was a 6-12 months…I think Scott forgot his glasses!}.  We had a good laugh about it.  Nolan’s was a sock monkey costume and fit just right.  I actually already had one at home which I had purchased for our Harvest Party circus theme.  Because of Hurricane Sandy, our Harvest Party had to be cancelled.  But now I have two matching costumes so I decided to save them for the twins.  Might make a cute photo shoot later?

Elaine was convinced that one costume was for her, so I let her try it on to prove it was too small.  It is too small, but just barely.  She wiggled into it and then convinced Nolan into his costume.  I snapped some pictures, though Nolan didn’t seem to like all of the layers he was wearing!

The Sock Monkeys

Nolan was much happier once I unsnapped his leggings and let him sit in my lap!

The Sock Monkeys

The Sock Monkeys

Wordless Thursday

I had these pictures all ready, but Wednesday flew by and left me in the dust!

Nolan’s new boot mug

Nolan’s new smile

Elaine, Elli, & Havilah
The resident doctors

Elaine, Elli, & Havilah

All of the princesses…and Nolan

Nolan's new Trains
Her curls lasted three days this time!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nolan: 18 months

Nolan turned 18 months on December 30th.  He’s a smart little guy who watches everything and picks up on details.  He loves his new room and the added height of a step stool, which allows him to reach the light switches.  He is now pacifier free, but not very happily!  I think meal times are his favorite, but he loves anything that sister is doing {sometimes to her dismay}.  He especially likes books & reading – whether by himself {but always on Elaine’s bed} or in Mommy’s lap.  If it is electronic and makes noise, Nolan wants it.  He can find a cell phone or power cord anywhere and entertain himself.  We love our Nolanator!

Nolan 18 mo 5x7 collage jpg

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Settled In

We feel pretty settled into our new apartment.  Everything has been unpacked, and the last of the boxes sent to the recycling today.  Pictures are hung on the wall, and everything seems to have a place.  I’m still “rearranging” little spots here and there, like kitchen cabinets and drawers.  The kids room will get some more work done closer to the twins’ arrival – when we get bunk beds for Nolan & Elaine. But for now, it’s all good.

The Dahlgren Apartment after Move In
I am much more happy with my picture wall in this apartment – and there is room on the sides to add two more kiddos in a couple of months!

The Dahlgren Apt after Move In
I really like my new rug…one of the few things we own from IKEA.  {Ben hates IKEA, but he picked this out}.  I have been enjoying having my devotions on the couch in a cozy spot.  My plants seem to be doing better with more sunlight, too.

The Dahlgren Apt after Move In
We eliminated a bookshelf and everything fits nicely on these two.  Still working on the tops – they are a little cluttered.

The Dahlgren Apt after Move In
We took both leaves out of our table to give us more room.  I kinda like it this way – but when the next two kids are ready to eat at the table, we will have to expand again.

The Dahlgren Apartment after Move In
There are no drawers or a medicine cabinet in the bathroom, so I’m still trying to find the best places for some things.  Our other IKEA purchase was a tall shelving unit which holds most of our “linen closet” items.

The Dahlgren Apartment after Move In
I really like my kitchen.  Everything is a huge improvement over the other kitchen.

The Dahlgren Apartment after Move In
I’m thankful for a handy husband.  We have a long, deep storage closet with shelves at the very end.  But it seemed like there was a lot of wasted space.  Ben added a bar to make the front part of the closet our coat closet {we don’t have one of those}.  He put a shelf on the top so that my iron and cleaning supplies are easily accessible.  The things behind the coats are infrequently used…like sewing machine, fans for the summer, etc.

The Dahlgren Apt after Move In
The kids love having the toys in their own room, and Mommy likes it too!  Things will change slightly when we add two more kids, but everything should fit well.

The Dahlgren Apt after Move In
Ben also added a shelf on the wall for the baby toys and craft supplies.  This makes them accessible to me, but not the kids.  He also added a shelf in one closet so that my paper-crafting machines and all of the baby items have a spot.